skip to main content
School of Journalism and New Media
University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘Debora Wenger’

A ‘Gentle Insistence on Excellence’​: Dr. Dupont will retire from UM School of Journalism and New Media after spring semester

Posted on: February 9th, 2021 by ldrucker

A 'Gentle Insistence on Excellence'

At the end of the spring semester, Dr. Nancy Dupont will retire from the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media. She has been a vital part of the school since 2006 – teaching across a wide swath of the curriculum and playing a critical role in the growth and achievements of the broadcast journalism program. 

While the entire faculty will miss her, that absence will be strongly felt by Interim Dean Debora Wenger, who has worked with Dupont in one way or another for more than 30 years.

Dr. Nancy Dupont teaches a class.
Nancy Dupont teaching students.

When Wenger moved to Charlotte, N.C. to produce the 11 o’clock news more than 30 years ago, Dupont was the 6 o’clock producer, supervising the station’s hour-long show.

“Despite the fact that she was under an incredible amount of pressure in that role, Nancy was always funny and fun to be around,” Wenger said.

Wenger’s responsibilities included coming into the station about 2 p.m. and monitoring the news feeds that came from the network and other sources so she could alert Dupont about any great video she should include in her show. She also helped write breaking news stories for the 6 p.m. news and led the production of the late show.

“My first impression (of Nancy) was that she was good at her job, and that I could learn something from her,” she said. “My second impression is that she was someone I wanted to be friends with because she sure knew how to make people laugh and to like her.”

Not much has changed, Wenger said.

Dean Debora Wenger
Dr. Debora Wenger, interim dean.

“After 30+ years of knowing Nancy, I still learn things from her, and I still enjoy being her friend,” she said. “When my husband, Mitch, was interviewing for a job at the University of Mississippi, Nancy was the first person to put my name forward as a candidate for an open position in the then Department of Journalism.

“Once I got the job, she was a huge help in getting me settled into my new role – and for the past 10 years, she has been a source of great ideas for making our program stronger, and she has been a great advocate for me always.”

For many years, Dupont was the faculty adviser for NewsWatch Ole Miss, and Wenger said Dupont deserves immeasurable thanks and credit for taking the program to a higher level. She was also a key driver behind the curriculum development that has made our broadcast program a much more relevant and robust component of the school. 

“My first impression (of Nancy) was that she was good at her job, and that I could learn something from her. My second impression is that she was someone I wanted to be friends with because she sure knew how to make people laugh and to like her.”
Debora Wenger
Debora Wenger
Interim dean

Dupont has served as chair of the Electronic News Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and was twice named chair of the news division of the Broadcast Education Association. In 2019, she was elected to a two-year term on the Broadcast Education Association Board of Directors. 

Dupont’s scholarship is extensive. She co-authored the book Journalism of the Fallen Confederacy in 2014 and has authored a dozen or more book chapters. She has also been a prolific presenter at national and international conferences.

“I got an education at Loyola University in New Orleans, and set out to be a reporter,” Dupont said. “I soon tired of that, because the producers boss people around all day, and I wanted to be a producer.”

Dupont joined the UM faculty in 2006 after spending 17 years as a broadcast journalist and 13 years as a journalism educator. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1997.

Dr. Nancy McKenzie Dupont
Dr. Nancy Dupont

Wenger said one of the things she has learned from Dupont is to keep her love of breaking news alive.

“Whenever a big story emerged in the state, Nancy was always the first person on the phone to me saying, ‘Who can we send,” she said. “A ‘go-get-’em’ journalist’s heart is alive and well in Dr. Dupont, and she’s helped to keep it beating strong in me as well.”

Dupont said Wenger is the “smartest person I have ever known.”

“She has such confidence in herself,” Dupont said. “She can do anything. She taught me how to be a good producer … She taught me to take the challenge.”

Wenger said Dupont has been a role model – someone who exemplifies what it means to be a teacher first.

“Though she was an excellent researcher and contributed countless service hours, she has always focused on students,” Wenger said. “That’s why I’m so glad that one of the ways we will honor her is by naming the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association Broadcast Adviser of the Year Award after Nancy.”

R.J. Morgan
Dr. R.J. Morgan

The MSPA Board of Advisers unanimously approved a request by the University of Mississippi School of Journalism & New Media to rename its Broadcast Adviser of the Year award in honor of Dupont.

“Dr. Dupont is a highly-decorated journalism educator and the long-time faculty adviser for the award-winning NewsWatch, UM’s daily live student-run news broadcast,” said Dr. R. J. Morgan, director of the MSPA. “Throughout her career, Dr. Dupont has been a friend to scholastic journalism and a mentor to generations of young communicators.

“As such, she embodies both the spirit and substance of those educators our adviser of the year awards seek to honor, and I think I speak for the entire board when I say we are incredibly excited to have her name attached to this honor going forward.”

Morgan said the award, which honors the state’s best high school broadcast adviser,  will be awarded at the spring convention, to be held virtually on April 9. Dupont will be involved in the judging process.

According to some of Dupont’s colleagues, naming the award for her could not be more fitting.

"In all your teaching, I saw you set the highest standard of professional journalism practice, and the ‘students’ responded to that in ways that will be rewarding for them all through their careers. Your gentle insistence on excellence has been inspirational ..."
Charlie Mitchell
Iveta Imre in Croatia
Iveta Imre

Professor Charlie Mitchell said when he visited NewsWatch in action, it was clear that students were “at work” as opposed to “in a class.”

“This is not insignificant,” he said. “In all your teaching, I saw you set the highest standard of professional journalism practice, and the ‘students’ responded to that in ways that will be rewarding for them all through their careers.

“Your gentle insistence on excellence has been inspirational to me, too. While you engaged in serious scholarship, you also organized Broadcast Day and attracted every news director in Mississippi and several from Tennessee to visit campus and meet with students each year. This was truly service above self and, again, something to admire.”

Samir Husni, Ph.D., founder and director, professor and Hederman Lecturer of the Magazine Innovation Center, said the only silver lining after the horrors of Hurricane Katrina was that it provided the opportunity for the department to hire  DuPont.

“Her combination of professionalism in the newsroom and classroom is unmatched,” he said. “From day one, she put both skills into the service of our students, and she excelled as a mentor and as a teacher. I’m very proud to have had the honor of working with her as a colleague and to also call her my friend. I wish her the best in her retirement.”

Iveta Imre, Ph.D., a UM assistant professor of journalism, said she is sad Dupont is leaving.

“Your endless energy and passion have been amazing to witness during the short time I have had the pleasure to work with you,” she said. “I was always amazed at your dedication to work with NewsWatch students day in and day out for hours on end, to help them grow into budding journalists and support them on their journey. You are leaving big shoes to fill.”

School of Journalism and New Media Assistant Dean Wenger receives the Burkum Service Award

Posted on: August 9th, 2018 by ldrucker

School of Journalism and New Media Associate Professor Deb Wenger, assistant dean for innovation and external partnerships, and her co-author Deborah Potter have been honored by the Electronic News Division of the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication. They received the Burkum Service Award for their work in serving the journalism industry and journalism education.

School of Journalism and New Media’s Wenger honored with Larry Burkum Service Awards by AEJMC Electronic News Division

Posted on: April 21st, 2018 by ldrucker

Deborah Potter and Debora Wenger, Ph.D., are each being honored with 2018 Larry Burkum Service Awards for their service to journalism and journalism education.

The Electronic News Division will honor Potter and Wenger in August at AEJMC’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. A committee of former END Division Heads and previous Burkum Award winners selected each woman from a pool of nomination.

Debora Wenger, Ph.D., is currently assistant dean for innovation and external partnerships at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. Her work as a trainer for the Society of Professional Journalists’ partnership with the Google News Initiative has taken her to institutions and newsrooms around the country.

In addition, she regularly contributes research to both academic and professional publications, focusing primarily on multimedia journalism practice and education. Prior to her work in academia, Wenger was a reporter, anchor and news manager at various local television stations.

“This is amazing,” Wenger said when she learned of the honor. “This is such an honor. I’m so touched to be recognized this way. None of us gets into this for the accolades or the awards, but this is special. It really means a lot to me that colleagues see the value in the overall goal of  my work.”

Perhaps equally excited about Wenger’s honor is her Ole Miss colleague, Nancy Dupont, Ph.D.

“I’m beside myself with excitement,” Dupont said. “I see firsthand how dedicated Deb is to her students, and she shows that not only by working with them, but by preparing both them and the industry for this new world of change we’re facing.”

Bill Silcock, Ph.D., of Arizona State University, was equally effusive in praising Dr. Wenger.

“She really is one of those who sets a standard for bringing the industry and the academy together,” he said. “Whether it is at conferences, workshops or in published research, Deb pushes everyone to look beyond what they’re doing now and to look ahead. Her work provides answers, but also pushes people to use her findings to come up  with answers that work best for them. I’m so excited for her; she really is a great choice to honor this year.”

Potter is the founding director of NewsLab, now affiliated with the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. Potter has been a correspondent, anchor and program host at CBS, CNN and PBS, as well as various local television and radio stations.

Currently, a Pollner professor at the University of Montana School of Journalism, Potter has taught at multiple institutions and has led hundreds of training sessions for students and professionals. In addition, she has served as executive director of the Radio-Television News Directors Foundation.

“I’m so excited,” Potter said when she learned the news. “This is a great honor. It really means a lot to me to be recognized like this.”

Potter noted that she has long had an interest in giving back and teaching, and “(my) work with NewsLab and RTNDF grew out of that. I’ve really enjoyed bringing educators and professionals closer together, and being honored with this award is just a thrill.”

“Deborah Potter is truly one of the leaders in connecting students to industry,” said Bill Davie, Ph.D., at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, a member of the selection committee. “She is one of those people who has such energy and enthusiasm for helping students and professionals get better at their craft. I think her work over the years is exemplary of what we all try to do – make a difference with out students and the profession.”

Tim Brown, Ph.D., of the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida and Burkum Committee Chair, was equally enthusiastic about Potter’s  selection.

“Her NewsLab work and workshops, as well as her work with RTNDF, have been models for me in what I try to pass along to my students,” he said. “She’s one of those who just works to make the business better than she found it, and I can really appreciate that. I still use some of her earlier NewsLab tips and tricks; they’re so solid and fundamental, they stand up each passing year.”

The committee notes that Potter and Wenger have collaborated on multiple projects, including the reporting textbook Advancing the Story, now in its 4th edition. However, it is important to point out that each woman is being honored individually for her own accomplishments.

While honoring two individuals with this award is a bit unusual, the committee believes these two are equally worthy of recognition this year. The Burkum Awards will be presented to Potter and Wenger on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

The Larry Burkum Service Award is presented by the Electronic News Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. This award recognizes an electronic journalist or journalism educator who has demonstrated extraordinary service to journalism education.

Larry Burkum served the Electronic News Division as secretary, newsletter editor and webmaster from 1995 to 2005.  He was presented the inaugural Burkum Award at the 2005 AEJMC convention in San Antonio.

Knight Foundation writes about local news study co-authored by UM professor Wenger

Posted on: April 6th, 2018 by ldrucker

The Knight Foundation’s Beyond “Live at Five”: What’s Next for Local News? summarizes research the organization commissioned from Meek School of Journalism and New Media Assistant Dean Debora Wenger and Professor Emeritus Bob Papper of Hofstra University.

Local TV News and the New Media Landscape” focuses on the competing forces currently shaping local television news. With a decline in broadcast news ratings, local news leaders are trying to engage audiences on social media and other digital platforms.

The article reads: “Knight Foundation is supporting television news journalists and leadership by investing $2.6 million into efforts around digital transformation, diversity, audience engagement and investigative reporting. Today, we are complementing that effort by publishing new research on the state of the industry and its future.”

The article notes some key findings from the study Local TV News and the New Media Landscape, co-authored by Wenger and Papper. They include:

  • TV is a key source of news, but audiences are slowly shrinking.
  • While newspapers have lost employees to layoffs and industry changes, TV news employment is up.
  • Television stations are primarily innovating on digital platforms rather than on the air.
  • Social media engagement boosts television ratings.
  • Most local television news leaders believe newscasts must fundamentally change if they expect to survive into the future.

The Knight Foundation is a national foundation that invests in journalism, the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Its goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, believed to be essential for a healthy democracy, according to their website.